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Pinellas makes early move to find a new school superintendent

School Board picks longtime member Carol Cook to start the search process, also approves raises for substitute teachers.
Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego, left, and School Board member Carol Cook attend an education roundtable early in Grego's 10-year tenure. Now Cook will start the process to find his successor.
Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego, left, and School Board member Carol Cook attend an education roundtable early in Grego's 10-year tenure. Now Cook will start the process to find his successor. [ DIRK SHADD | Times (2013) ]
Published Jan. 11|Updated Jan. 11

The search to replace retiring Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego began slowly on Tuesday with the School Board agreeing that longtime member Carol Cook should get the process started.

Cook has served on the seven-member board since 2000. She has held leadership positions in the Florida School Boards Association, which often assists districts in superintendent searches, and has served on several task force panels for the Florida Department of Education.

Pinellas County School Board member Carol Cook will take the lead in organizing a search for a new superintendent.
Pinellas County School Board member Carol Cook will take the lead in organizing a search for a new superintendent. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Cook agreed to a suggestion by board chairperson Eileen Long that she take the lead, which drew agreement from the others at Tuesday’s meeting.

But she made it clear she does not intend to choose the superintendent, nor vet the candidates. Instead, she said, she will ask for a more in-depth discussion at the board’s next workshop on Jan. 18.

After leading the district for a decade, Grego announced last week that he will retire on July 1.

His departure comes as other large Florida districts — Broward, Lee and Miami-Dade — are also conducting searches.

Related: Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego to retire

But a replacement for Grego could come from inside the Pinellas organization. Board member Laura Hine made that point, telling Grego that “one of the most important things you have done here is to put the right people in the right places.”

Grego did not say anything Tuesday about his retirement. Instead, he congratulated the district on having reached a high school graduation rate this year of 92 percent, which is the highest in the region and among large school Florida districts.

“It might sound like we are bragging, but it’s OK,” he said. “I think other districts would do the same.” He attributed the success, in part, to a system of monitoring students at crucial junctures in grades 9 and 10.

In other business, the board unanimously approved a pay increase for substitute teachers as, like other districts, it contends with labor shortages that have been worsened by the pandemic.

Increases of $40 to $50 a day mean substitutes in Pinellas will be able to earn between $120 and $150, depending on their assignment and qualifications.

That compares to a range of $100 to $120 a day in Manatee County and $80 to $100 in neighboring Pasco County. Hillsborough County’s contractor, Kelly Educational Staffing, has seven pay classifications and supplements at its highest-needs schools. Daily payment, assuming at least a 7½-hour shift, ranges from $84 to $168.

The change adopted in Pinellas will affect 1,400 district employees.

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